The first spring Las Vegas Restaurant Week

Great cuisine, great price — get it at the first spring Las Vegas Restaurant Week. For the week of Feb. 27- March 4, sample some of Sin City’s most delicious cuisine from top restaurants and chefs including Charlie Palmer, Michael Mina and Jean Joho.

During Las Vegas Restaurant Week, more than 105 restaurants will offer at least one prix fixe menu for $20.12, $30.12 or $50.12 per person. The reasonable price points allow guests to dine at exceptionally high-quality (and otherwise expensive) restaurants for a great value.

The best part of Las Vegas Restaurant Week is a portion of the proceeds benefits Three Square, Las Vegas’ only food bank.

Three Square President and CEO, Brian Burton, says Las Vegas Restaurant Week has gained a lot of popularity since it started in 2007.

“A lot [of tourists] plan their vacation around restaurant week, it’s the reason they come because it offers them a more affordable experience visiting Las Vegas,” says Burton.

Chicken satay at Tao Las Vegas.

If you’re looking to explore Vegas’ vast culinary scene, but don’t want to pay full price, the value of these menus is fabulous. For example, you can have a three-course dinner at fine dining restaurants like BarMasa, American Fish,  Verandah and The Palm Restaurant for just $50.12, where a dinner at these restaurants can run closer to $100 per person otherwise.

Piero’s, a Las Vegas staple for 30 years, offers a three-course dinner menu including their signature osso buco and agnolotti filled with spinach and ricotta cheese. Osteria del Circo at the Bellagio also offers high-end Italian cuisine like mozzarella with tomatoes and basil, beef carpaccio, fresh ravioli with ricotta and butter sage sauce and grilled Napa Valley quail.

Celebrity chef’s restaurants like Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood, Todd English’s Olives and Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill are all participating. Try some of Flay’s Southwestern heat with spicy pork tenderloin or barbecue duck blue corn pancake with habanero chile sauce. Or, try some of Moonen’s sustainable seafood like seared sea scallops and jumbo lump crab cakes. At $30.12 or $50.12, you can taste a celebrity chef’s cuisine without breaking the bank — and visitors are catching on.

“We’re seeing more and more tourists from L.A. and Phoenix and other cities actually coming for Restaurant Week because it is such a value-priced menu and some of the high-end and some of the top restaurants in our city are offering menus that are extremely affordable,” says Burton.

Even local restaurants off the Las Vegas Strip are participating. Restaurants like the popular DW Bistro in Summerlin, a restaurant that serves comfort food with a Jamaican flair, are getting involved. DW Bistro offers breakfast, lunch and dinner menu options like pan-roasted walu with coconut cream and pineapple salsa and jerk filet medallions with grilled scallops. Other local restaurants like the edgy Bar + Bistro at the Arts Factory, authentic pizzeria, Due Forni in Summerlin and long time Las Vegas favorite, The Pasta Shop in Henderson also offer menus.

Most restaurants are donating $4 – $5 per meal to Three Square. Additionally, The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation has pledged $5 million total to Three Square and $3 million of that is designated to match every dollar donated to the organization. That being said, for every dollar donated, Three Square turns it into six meals.

It’s a good thing a dollar stretches that far. According to Burton, one out of every six people in the Las Vegas valley face food shortages. Three years ago, it was one out of eight. That’s a staggering statistic, but Burton says the economy is to blame.

Pasta cotta nel vaso at the Verandah in Four Seasons Las Vegas.

“Food insecurity really tends to follow the unemployment rate,” says Burton. “So, when the unemployment rate is this high, you’re going to have a lot of families that aren’t necessarily people you would expect.”

Burton says there are a lot of former middle class people that have sought help from the organizations Three Square supports. The meals Three Square provides to these local organizations helps an average of 100,000 people per month.

In addition to organizations, Three Square also has programs like Senior Share, which provides boxes of healthy food and medicine to Las Vegas seniors. Three Square also partners with the Las Vegas school district to bring the 48,000 children who are provided with free or reduced lunch healthy meals for the weekend. They also provide a big meal during the week at the after school Kid’s Café, through the Backpack Program.

“This is what we’re up against. The good news is the community has rallied. Things like Las Vegas Restaurant Week are just a great way for the community to do something about the problem and to solve it,” says Burton.

More than 25 million pounds of food or 18 million meals get served through Three Square, and as the only food bank in Nevada, it is imperative Three Square’s success is sustained. The funds raised at Las Vegas Restaurant Week go to providing food for these programs and organizations.

As the first spring Restaurant Week (usually held in the fall), Las Vegas positions itself in line with larger cities like New York and Los Angeles, both of which have a spring and a fall Restaurant Week.

In 2007, a single Las Vegas Restaurant Week in the fall raised $20,000 for the charity. In fall of 2011, a two-week long event raised $200,000. Hopefully, 2012’s Restaurant Weeks will reach beyond that.

Burton himself is supporting Restaurant Week by trying tasty menus from Society Cafe Encore, The Grotto at The Golden Nugget, Charlie Palmer Steak at Four Seasons and Tao at the Venetian.

“I have a full week planned because my best friend in Dallas, she’s coming to visit Las Vegas because it’s Restaurant Week and she’s a foodie,” says Burton.

And with tourists planning their trip around Restaurant Week, locals anxiously awaiting its arrival and other visitors surprised by the menus and good values, Burton offers these simple but powerful words of wisdom:

“I encourage everybody to turn out for this — make reservations, eat early and eat often!”

To see a complete listing of participating restaurants, menus and pricing, click here.